A CASE STUDY
Human Factors in. Design
Department of Mechanical Engineering
U.N. ASSEMBLY HEARS TERRIFYING IMPLICATIONS OF RARC DISCOVERIES
United Nations, N.Yo Sept. 17, 1966 Associated Press Release
Doctors Ivan Makelovitch of Moscow and Percival McGooch of Harvard shocked
the world with their report to a special meeting of the General Assembly
here today. Presenting the first official report of the Russian American
Research Council, they stated that the newly discovered element, zylerium,
is probably responsible for the rapid increase in the incidence of con-
genital blindness in the world ! s peoples.
M In a long series of controlled experiments, small quantities of zylerium
were administered to animal subjects," the report stated. "Thirty-four
per cent of the offspring of the injected animals were blind at birth.
One hundred per cent of the second generation offspring of these injected
animals were born blind. The experiment is by no means complete. We
are relectant to generalize these findings to the human race at this
time. Yet, we feel these data strongly suggest that even the minute
traces of zylerium found free in our atmosphere may be responsible for
the recent increase in congenital blindness. We shall proceed in our
studies as rapidly as is humanly possible, and shall continue to make
public our findings." The twenty-seven page report spelled out in
statistical and medical detail the results of the much heralded
The RARC Report struck an ominous note at the general assembly meeting.
Many of the representatives were taken completely by surprise. Some
few of the representatives admitted to this reporter afterward that
they were expecting this news, after the announcement at the recent
convention of the International Physical Society.
A proposal to expand the scope of the present research program, made
by the Canadian delegation, was unanimously approved in the assembly.
Starting tomorrow, the World Health Organization will hold a series
of special meetings to decide what immediate measures can be taken
to protect the world* s peoples from this peril.
SOVIET EXPERIMENTS PROPHESY TOTAL BLINDNESS IN TWO GENERATIONS
Petrograd, USSR Sept, 23, 1966 International News Release
Late last night came the announcement from the Petrograd Biophysical
Laboratories that the destructive mechanism of the notorious element
zylerium had at last been discovered. Dr, Igor Krldsczyk, eminent
cytologist, who has been working feverishly with his small group of
scientists to study the particular effects of zylerium on the visual
senses, made the announcement.
His report was not optimistic. He stated that electron microscope
studies had revealed that traces of the element zylerium have been
absorbed by essentially all organic matter on earth. These traces,
though extremely small, have caused irreversible mutations in the
chromosome structure of every animal among certain higher order species,
man included. The chromosome transmutations will cause blindness in
a certain percentage of first generation offspring, he explained. He
further claimed that no second generation offspring will be spared.
Dr, Krldsczyk reported that the statistical conclusions of the animal
studies of the Russian American Research Council had been corroborated
by his work with the electron microscope,
"The very significant fact," he stated, "is that the animal and human
tissues tested were not injected with zylerium. Yet, traces of this
element sufficient to cause the critical transmutations were found
within the tissues in every case. No experimental subject was spared
the calamitous effects of the powerful element. This implies that
zylerium has already been absorbed in critical quantity by practically
every human on earth. Since the transmutation is irreversible, no
corrective measures seem possible,"
CRUCIAL SIGNIFICANCE OF ZYLERIUM REPORT NOW SEEN
William H. Flinger, Special Correspondent for the New York Times
September 24, 1966
Just seven months ago a group of British Scientists announced the dis-
covery of a new element, zylerium. The announcement was made in a
conventional scientific paper given at a conventional scientific meeting,
the annual convention of the International Physical Society in Geneva,
How ironical that this announcement, which led to the terrifying events
of this month, should have been made in Geneva where continued but
unsuccessful attempts have been made for peace.
The paper was conventional, but the nature of the discovery was not.
A new element was uncovered. It was initially uncovered not as one
would have guessed -- by atomic physicists. The discoverers were
astronomers, using telescopes and spectrographs. By sheer coincidence,
while peering into outer space, they noticed that a kind of radiation
distortion was upsetting their measurements. Efforts to trace the
cause of this distortion led them to re-examination of optical trans-
missivity properties of various layers of the world’s atmosphere. It
was at this point that the physicists were called in.
Further research led to this inescapable conclusion: Something new
was holding forth in the upper atmosphere. Something was there which
most certainly had not been there a few years before -- during the
International Geophysical Year and for three years thereafter, when
the nature and composition of the earth’s atmosphere had been so
carefully and completely inventoried.
After the physicists were called in, it was but two months before the
cards were on the table. It was an entirely new substance -- a new
element, in fact, which caused the atmospheric disturbance. This new
element was resulting from a heretofore unknown nuclear reaction
taking place in the ozone of the upper atmosphere. What had caused this
reaction? The first hunch of the combined astronomer-physicist group
proved to be correct. The nuclear explosions of the infamous Bering
Strait Incident five years past had been of sufficient force to set
off this much slower type of previously unknown and undreamt of reaction.
Atomic theory had been pointing in this direction for several years.
It took the Bering Strait Incident to prove the theory.
At present, scientists know no way of stopping this slow but deadly
reaction, or of eliminating its byproduct. The discovery of zylerium
may go down in the annals of history as the worst news science has
ever released to the world. Or, it may be a great blessing. Perhaps
this announcement, made at Geneva, the city of the struggle for peace,
has at last brought to the world a new kind of peace.
THE BERING STRAIT INCIDENT MAY NEVER BE SETTLED -- BUT DOES IT MATTER?
Peter J. Balsopp, Syndicated Columnist
Septo 25, 1966
It was July of 1961 . There was a deadlock in the cold war such as the
world had never known„ The issues were the conventional ones . Who owns
the atmosphere o (The weather balloon question, which caused so much
trouble back in 1956 had been revived . ) And, there was the other
problem -- undersea mining rights . Both the U.S* and the Soviet Union
had built up defenses, one in the Aleutians and the other across the
Bering Strait, using these bases as jumping off spots for high altitude
reconaissance, each over the other's country, and for practicing
military operations in the Arctic . Both countries had been using their
military engineering and transport equipment, stationed at these bases,
to exploit the undersea uranium deposits recently discovered just north
of the Arctic circle « Each side was charging the other with interfering
with submarine transportation of "legitimately mined ores. n Tension
was at a peak, and each side, rationalizing in terms of bluff value,
had pointed "concentrated blast" missiles toward the other's military
base on the opposite side of the strait .
The result was almost inevitable. During an electrical storm on the
evening of July 13th, the first missile was fired. The second followed
within seconds. The explosions reaped total distruction on both bases.
There were no survivors, except for the occupants of three Soviet
aircraft doing reconaissance missions over the north pole and the crew
members of an American submarine submerged for a research mission some
forty miles from the American Base,
Each side claimed that the other fired first, that their own missile
would have been fired only if the flight of another missile had been
detected and was shown to be heading across the Bering Strait.
Scientists have searched in vain to determine which missile was fired
first. No evidence has been found at the site of the missile launcher
nor anywhere around the bases themselves. There were some seismographic
records, but since the explosions took place in adjacent areas, there
is still considerable disagreement as to the interpretation of the
seismographic recordings. There were seismographs at both bases, but
these were destroyed. The closest ones to record the explosions were
in Seattle, Washington, and Tokyo.
The radioactive fallout was fairly well localized, largely due to recent
"improvements" In concentrated blast weapons. Some drifted over Alaska
and caused an epidemic of radiation sickness. A great many caribou
of the Alaskan and Northwest Canadian wilds were affected.
The incident caused an immediate furor in the United Nations and in
diplomatic circles all over the world. In record time the U.S. and
Soviet Union came to an agreement. The agreement was to abolish
nuclear weapons of all types. Concurrent with this were important
new steps toward total disarmament, with means to achieve an effective
inspection and control plan within the year.
Six months after the Bering Strait Incident a sharp increase in con-
genital blindness was noted in hospitals the world over. The blame
was immediately placed on the nuclear explosion. There were interna-
tional damage suits and legal wrangles. The rate of congenital blindness
increased. From most scientific quarters the claim that blindness had
resulted from the nuclear explosions was sharply denied. It was argued
that even though these may have been the most powerful explosions from
the standpoint of total energy released, the radioactive fallout was
minimal and highly localized over the blast area. The radioactive
fallout could not possibly have affected people the world over. Was
a new, highly contagious virus in the air? "Impossible, " said the
medical researchers. "Peoples of certain isolated communities in the
world have been affected in the same way as those in metropolitan
areas." No proof could be found that the nuclear blasts were in any
way connected with the alarming turn of events.
The truth is now before the world. The argument still rages over who
lit the first match, and to many it seems important that the guilty
party be brought to the international witness stand. But to some
prophetic few, it is time to stop the argument and to consider only the
matter of solving the problem at hand. The recent announcement of the
RARC to the U.N. assembly, coupled with the report of the Petrograd
Biophysical Laboratory, has brought the world face to face with the
grim fact of increasing congenital blindness. This affliction is not
limited by geographical area or by ideological loyalty. It is ironic
that the prospect of universal darkness should be the path to peaceful
In the light of scientific findings, it seems foolhardy to waste time,
effort, and money on further legal proceedings. Let us unite our
knowledge and resources to combat the approaching danger. Who fired
the first shot in the Bering Strait Incident may always remain a
mystery . . . but does it matter?
U .No OUTLINES FOUR POINT PROGRAM TO MEET BLINDNESS CRISIS
New York Herald Tribune, United Nations , New York, Sept 0 27 , 1966
The U.N. Security Council agreed today to a four point program to cope
with the rapidly growing problem of blindness in our younger generation.
The bitter realization that the grandchildren of the present generation
will live in a sightless world has stimulated the U.N. to complete a
"five day session" in record time -- in this case, one and one-half
days. The United Nations chambers have seen an unprecedented pace of
activity. The exchange of economic and scientific information has
been conducted with great dispatch, and security problems , even rules,
have been ignored. Great and far reaching recommendations have been
made. It remains only for the General Assembly to approve the recom-
mendations at a special meeting tomorrow. Unanimous approval is
Briefly, the recommended program is as follows:
1. A world educational council will be set up, wherein all
countries pool information regarding techniques for educating
the blind -- from nursery school age on. Problems concerning
the survival of art and literature will be within the scope
of the council,
2. Basic research pertinent to the zylerium blindness problem,
especially with regard to possible prevention, will be
undertaken on a large scale by every nation, A U.No Research
Coordination Council will be created,
3. Active development of machines and procedures will be spon-
sored by government contracts in the broad fields of trans-
portation, communication, manufacturing, business procedures,
building, etc, A U.N. Human Engineering Development Council
will be created to coordinate these engineering developments.
Local legislation will be encouraged to provide for partial
modification of existing roads, buildings, and other public
and private facilities, for installing and testing new equip-
ment for anticipated conditions of total blindness.
4. National governments will take immediate steps to educate
their citizens as to the nature of the forthcoming problems,
to prevent panic and hysteria Insofar as possible, and to
enlist the cooperation of state and city governments in
effecting a smooth evolution of community life.
The program spelled out in detail the means of achieving the desired
ends under each of the four points. There seemed to be no disagreement
among U.N. representatives. However, there are expected to be some
amendments to the details of the program.
Shortly after the news of the Security Council proposals was received
at the White House, the President made an unscheduled broadcast over
the nation* s radio and television channels, He wholeheartedly endorsed
the proposed UoNo program and promised one hundred per cent cooperation
from the United States « He announced that he was recommending an
immediate reorganization of all Department of Defense facilities so as
to provide construction and test personnel of all types for development
projects. He also announced that recommendations for radical changes
in the national budget would be made soon, He begged that engineers,
scientists, and medical doctors cooperate with forthcoming organized
planning programs and devote their attentions to the zylerium blindness
research and development problems wherever and whenever possible. He
assured them that their creative autonomy would be respected to the
fullest, and that cooperation in the new research and development
programs would in no way be compulsory •